My new 29 inch Nimbus unicycle

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29″ Nimbus Road unicycle

As many of you already know, I purchased my first unicycle in late 2015 because it seemed like the next logical thing to learn after joggling for so many years. After a few months I was able to ride it for long distances and was satisfactory with most basic skills. Though the Club 24 inch unicycle was a perfect introductory model for someone completely new to the enigmatic world of unicycling, it’s far from ideal for going on long treks.

At most on long rides I could average 5.5 miles per hour on the 24″ unicycle. Little kids on their tiny bicycles in the park were often very impressed when they saw me on my unicycle until they realized they could go much faster than me. One minute they totally admire me, the next minute I get no respect! And so I began my search for a faster unicycle, which means a much larger wheel. Eventually it came down to 2 choices: a 36″ unicycle or a 29″ unicycle.

A 36″ unicycle can travel about 12 mph on a long ride, which is roughly equivalent to the average speed of a weekend bicyclist. The drawbacks of a 36″ unicycle are that it’s more difficult to maneuver, it’s a struggle to go up hills, and it takes up a lot of space and costs a lot more than a 29″. Like just about everything else in life, purchasing a unicycle is about making compromises.

A 29″ unicycle can travel at about 7 mph, it’s easier to maneuver and go up hills than with a 36″. Since I live in a hilly area, a 29″ was the obvious choice. So I recently purchased a Nimbus 29″ road unicycle with 125 mm cranks. So far I am loving it and the transition wasn’t as difficult as I originally thought it would be. Unfortunately, I still struggle a little with free-mounting it since the seat and pedals are a little higher than on the 24″.

On average, my speed is 6.5 mph on long rides, much faster than my 24″, but still not as fast as I had hoped(kids often zoom past me). I figure a little more training will improve my speed and my ability to climb steep hills. I was competent with idling on my 24″, but it seems impossible with the 29″(the larger the wheel, the harder it is to idle). So far, I haven’t tried juggling while riding the 29″ since I don’t feel comfortable enough with it yet.

Overall, the Nimbus 29″ feels much more solid than my 24″. The 24″ feels flimsy by comparison. The ride is also smoother on the 29″, handling certain bumpy areas better than the 24″. An oddity is that for some reason I’ve long struggled with right turns on the 24″, while left turning was always comparatively easy. With the 29″, it’s the opposite, but the issue isn’t as noticeable as with the 24″. I’ve long tried to find a defect with the 24″ and couldn’t find anything obviously wrong with it, so I’ve long considered that this discrepancy may be due to having a favored side. Having a favored side isn’t anything unusual, it’s similar to right or left-handedness. However, I still suspect a defect since it would be unusual for my favored side to change based on the unicycle I’m riding.

Even though this unicycle is primarily for road riding, I’ve found that it performs well enough on trails, so long as it’s mostly flat. It would likely be even easier riding trails if I replaced the tire with an off-road type of tire. Since I do very little trail riding, I don’t think I’ll be doing this any time soon.

So far, I am very pleased with the 29″ Nimbus road unicycle, and hope to do a 20 mile ride on it one of these days. I will still use the 24″ for skill development, but the 29″ will be used from now on for anything longer than a few miles.

 

Check out the Ultra Ordinary Running Podcast

The Ultra Ordinary Running podcast is by the most inspiring, as well as funniest ultra-runners I know. Ultra-runners Melissa, Angela, and Christina are planning on running the Javelina Jundred in October, their first ever 100 mile run. They discuss their training leading up to this event, as well as the smaller, easy races(like 50 milers) they do along the way. They don’t just share a lot of great training tips, they’re also very motivating. Did I mention they’re funny too? Their discussions sometimes venture deep into sports psychology and the occasional tangent.

Even if you’re just a casual runner, they’re definitely worth listening to. Expect to see them on the cover of Runner’s World late this year or some time next year.

Oh, and there’re vegan too!

Documentary about the Vegan Joggler

Thanks to a very talented group of students from Bronxville high school for producing this short film. Although I kind of liked being this mysterious figure and this makes me a lot less of one, I’m still glad I got to share my story since a lot of people find it inspiring. I was very impressed with the finished product, especially the music. I rarely mention the horrible backstory that lead me to take up joggling because it was eons ago and now my joggling is so intertwined with my veganism that I almost forget how it all started.

If you like stories about passion and perseverance, then this is for you. All credit for the documentary goes to Ohto, John George, and Scott; I didn’t film or edit this, that was all their work. There are no special effects. I hope all you fit-freaks and even non-fit-freaks around the world find it informative and inspiring.

Unicycling as the ultimate cross-training

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Unicycling starts to get really interesting when you ride the trails.

Like a lot of athletes, I’m always on the lookout for a cross-training activity that complements my usual regimen. As a joggler, it’s difficult finding something that fits the bill that challenges me in a way that is similar to joggling, but isn’t as strenuous. I’ve sometimes tried simply running, but it often makes me feel like I am regressing from joggling and is otherwise too similar. I also wanted an activity that is easier on the knees. I’ve considered juggling while swimming or “swuggling”, but I don’t have access to a pool.

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The 24 inch Club unicycle I purchased. This is a good beginner model.

After exploring countless options, I recently “discovered” unicycling, and won the Nobel prize for my amazing discovery. Granted, I’ve always known about unicycling, but for some silly reason or other I didn’t seriously consider taking it up. I used to think it would take too long to learn how to ride one, or that I wouldn’t have enough time, but in late October of last year I finally purchased a 24 inch wheel unicycle. It took about 3 weeks for me to learn to ride forward 500 feet(while recovering from the Yonkers marathon injury), and I am now capable of riding up to 13 miles on it. I can even go up and down hills, so long as they are not too steep.

It should go without saying that it took a lot of practice and patience to get to where I’m at with unicycling, just like how I progressed with joggling. In fact, I can now juggle while unicycling, though very sloppily. I think my joggling ability helped make the transition to juggling while unicycling a lot easier. I can also “idle”, which means pedaling back and forth to stay in the same position without dismounting(which comes in handy when waiting for a traffic light to change), and do a little hopping. Backwards riding I can barely do. Though I’ve taken a bunch of nasty falls, so far I haven’t suffered any serious injuries.

Unicycling just makes perfect sense to me. Similar to juggling/joggling, it’s an aerobic and acrobatic activity that was long ago appropriated by circus performers to the point that few people see it as a sport. Whereas joggling requires a great deal of coordination, unicycling requires a great deal of balance. There’s something about being in “perfect” balance or coordination that brings about a state of euphoria. Unicycling engages the brain in a manner few exercises can approach. Unlike running or joggling, it’s a low impact activity so it gives your knees a break while still providing your legs a great workout.

Unicycling generally requires more effort than bicycling. You always have to pedal if you want to move since you can’t coast on a typical unicycle. This means you burn more calories on a unicycle than on a bicycle when covering the same distance. It’s not as many calories as a person would burn while running, but it is significantly closer.

A lot of people balk at the idea of unicycling as a sport. The association with the circus is still too strong and some people are too self-conscious about all the attention they would get. Besides this, some people see it as inherently dangerous. However, over the past two decades unicycling has become much more popular as an athletic activity for fitness enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers. These days, there are even some gutsy people riding mountain unicycles, which are usually called “municycles”. Some prefer riding long distances on roads or bike paths with large 36 inch wheel unicycles which kind of look like smaller versions of the Victorian era Penny Farthing, except that they lack the tiny rear wheel.

As far as safety goes, as long as you know what you’re doing and wear a helmet and safety gear, it probably isn’t much more dangerous than bicycling. If you are still concerned about safety, keep in mind that unicycles tend to be much slower than bicycles, and if something goes wrong they are easier to bail from since they lack handlebars.

Though I enjoy it for its own sake, I unicycle mainly for cross-training since I still see myself primarily as a joggler. There’s nothing wrong, of course, with making unicycling your main athletic activity. I don’t intend to do a lot of juggling while unicycling, but it’s a good skill set to have since it helps to make your upper and lower body movements more independent of each other.

I am considering doing some cycling events in the future, but haven’t found anything suitable yet. Since I am still a novice, I can’t travel very far on my unicycle yet, but I am getting there. I plan to upgrade to a bigger model soon so I can go much farther. In the mean time, I will enjoy the cross-training benefits of unicycling. Unicycling around the neighborhood after a long joggling run is a great low-impact recovery aid, and is a lot of fun both for me and the local kids(as well as adults) who love all the free entertainment. The mean kids love it when I fall off, of course. On the other hand, the geeky kids enjoy it when I explain the physics of unicycling. Actually, they usually do a better job of explaining it to me. I highly recommend unicycling as a cross-training activity for jogglers and runners alike.

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My first wheels

 

 

Joggling the Looper Bowl

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At the Looper Bowl finish line

Many people think joggling is difficult enough as it is. Why would anyone try to make this ridiculous activity any more complicated? Yet there are 5 ball and even 7 ball jogglers; jogglers who do tricks while joggling; backwards jogglers like Joe Salter, who plans to set a 50 mile backwards joggling record in October.

Then there are jogglers like me who love to joggle hilly trails. Even in wintry conditions.

Earlier this month I joggled the Looper Bowl 10k up in Pound Ridge, NY for the first time. The last 2 times I just ran it since I wasn’t up for the challenge of joggling it. The first time I ran it, I didn’t have that much trail joggling experience, and though I considered joggling it the second time it was too cold and the snow on the trails was much deeper.

This time it was just under 20F at the 8 AM start, and it got a little warmer during the run. Besides this, the trail was only partially covered with snow. So the conditions were just right for my first attempt at joggling this treacherous trail. For safety reasons I was one of the very last of the 50 participants to start the race.

For about the first 2 miles through this winter wonderland I felt alright except for my hands. They felt cold in spite of the fact that I had on heavy duty gloves. By mile 3 they felt fine after I warmed up. I think this was the greatest obstacle course I’ve ever joggled through: other runners, endless twists and turns, ups and downs, rock outcroppings, tree roots, ice, mud, and sometimes the snow was a challenge to joggle though. This was a really big challenge since I am not used to joggling on such a course. My eyes were kept extremely busy looking down and ahead to make sure I didn’t trip over anything and also to ensure I could maintain my juggling pattern through the endless unevenness.

I managed to joggle drop-free until I got to about mile 3, thanks to a hill so steep the trail was almost vertical. I dropped 2 times on that monster, and ended up having to climb to the top on all fours because of its steepness and slipperiness. Upon reaching the top I felt frustrated but quickly regained my composure. About a mile later I fell and dropped because of some slippery rocks, but was back on my feet in no time. I really picked up the pace during the last mile and a half when the trail was a lot smoother, passing a few runners in the process. Something had come over me, like some ancient forest spirit possessed me and helped push me forward all the way to the end without any further drops.

In spite of everything, I managed to maintain a 9:35/mile overall pace, completing this 6.2 mile run in 1:01 and 46 seconds. Toward the end, my brain was more tired than anything. I got so much support from my fellow runners that day, they seemed to enjoy the joggling. I had a fantastic time. Believe it or not, I wasn’t the craziest one out there; the runners who went through rather than over the nearly waist deep water were the really crazy ones. Very inspirational. Maybe I’ll try that next year. Thanks to the Leatherman Lunatics, uh I mean Leatherman Harriers for organizing this event. You all did great!

5 More Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan

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The long-awaited sequel is here! The post I did back in November of last year titled “10 Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan” was so popular(a big thanks to everyone who shared it), I decided to do a followup. Many things were left out because I didn’t want the post to be too long, so I prioritized the most common things that I believe are problematic. Here are 5 more things you don’t need to be a healthy vegan:

1) Eat alkaline

This form of pseudoscience has a following both within the vegan/plant-based community and misguided health nuts among omnivores. It overlaps to a large extent with rawfoodism, though isn’t necessarily the same thing. The idea behind this diet is that most people eat diets that are too “acid-forming”, and that an acidic environment inside the body can lead to serious diseases, including cancer.

By eating an alkaline diet, you are helping to prevent this unhealthy acidic environment in your body and the diseases it causes. Some advocates go even further and claim it can be used to treat serious diseases. Basically, eating alkaline means consuming lots of fresh fruits and vegetables(since they are generally alkaline), which is excellent advice, though alkaline gurus recommend it for the wrong reasons. There is virtually no scientific basis to this type of diet. You can’t do much to alter your PH through diet, and your body works hard to make sure your PH stays within a very limited range to keep you healthy.

Some medical conditions can lead to a significant shift in PH, which can be dangerous; the medical conditions associated with a PH imbalance require urgent medical care. Assuming you have this type of problem, you cannot fix it through diet. There is no good reason whatsoever to embrace this fad diet and its idiotic restrictions.

2) Give up all grain including bread

One of the hallmarks of disordered eating is avoiding perfectly healthy food for irrational, pseudoscientific reasons. It’s disturbing witnessing all the over the top fear-mongering on social media concerning soy foods, olive oil, cooked food, and even staples like grain and bread. Grain-free is yet another ridiculous, unnecessary restriction that greatly increases your chances of failing at veganism. It’s no coincidence that the zealots pushing this “grain is poison” madness are very often rawfoodists, though they have allies among the paleo, high meat/protein crowd.

At its most basic, the idea behind this type of dietary restriction is that grains will ruin your health because we supposedly didn’t evolve to eat them. Grains cause obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and Adam Sandler movies. As always with pseudoscience based restrictions, there is virtually no evidence for these claims, except that in a generic sense there is a grain of truth to it. Eating too much of anything can lead to health problems, not just grain. Yes, grain isn’t perfect, it contains “toxins” like phytates, but there is no such thing as a “perfect” food or a “perfect” diet. If you had to abstain from something because it contains small quantities of “toxins” and therefore falls short of perfection, you’d have to give up everything and end up starving to death.

Now while a minority of the population are better off restricting carbs or eating high-protein, this approach doesn’t appear to benefit most people. This fad is best ignored. Grain won’t harm you when consumed in reasonable amounts; whole grains are one of the cornerstones of a healthy vegan diet.

3) Focus on super foods

The most important thing you should realize about “super foods” is that this is purely a marketing term, not a special class of food recognized and recommended by reputable health professionals. That said, there’s nothing wrong with eating them, just don’t get carried away with thinking there is something magical about them.

What you really should be focusing on is eating a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. The wider the variety, the better. The criteria for deciding what is a “super food” is usually pretty arbitrary and changes with time and what is fashionable at the moment. Since antioxidants are all the rage right now, “super foods” very often have a high antioxidant content. All too often, the evidence showing some unique medicinal effect for a certain “super food” is weak or preliminary, but that doesn’t stop health guru authors, supplement pushers, and retailers from hyping them. Again, “super foods” can be part of a healthy diet, but there’s no good reason to consume them in supplement form.

Ignore the hype and just eat several servings of fruits and vegetables every day – darker, more colorful ones are generally more nutritious.

4) Go macrobiotic

The popularity of the macrobatic diet waxes and wanes. Right now, this Japanese type diet doesn’t seem all that popular, but all it would take to make it popular again is a major celebrity endorsement. Macrobiotics isn’t a vegan or vegetarian diet(it usually includes fish) but it comes close, so it is easy enough to make it vegan.

For the most part, a macrobiotic diet is pretty healthy(though it can be salty), at least when you compare it to the way most Americans eat. It emphasizes fruits and vegetables, legumes(especially soy), and whole grains. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that macrobiotics is an overly restrictive diet based on pseudoscience. Although it gets a lot of things right, it does so for the wrong reasons. An important feature of macrobiotics are these arcane, complicated food combining rules, the purpose of which is to properly balance the “yin and yang” elements of food to help you achieve optimum health. For example, perfectly healthful members of the nightshade family like potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant are excluded from this diet because they are considered too “yin”. It really should go without saying that there is no scientific basis to “yin” or “yang”; you could be missing out on a lot of nutritious foods if you follow these nonsensical rules.

There really is nothing macrobiotics can add to an already healthy plant-based diet except unnecessary restrictions, so there’s no good reason to embrace macrobiotics.

5) Go paleo

Finally, the diet that combines the best of both worlds, with incredible health benefits reflecting this best of both worlds approach. However, does it live up to the hype?

The paleo diet, which mimics the way our caveman ancestors ate is thought by proponents to be the ideal human diet since we evolved to eat this way. Or at least that is what paleos want you to believe. In essence, the paleo diet is really just the latest iteration of high protein dieting; it’s more or less a successor to the Atkins diet.

The central idea to paleo is that if you want to be optimally healthy, eat like a caveman. That’s because cavemen ate the way nature intended us to eat, we “evolved” to eat a paleo diet. Since cavemen didn’t eat processed foods, the paleo diet excludes processed foods like refined sugars, oils, etc. This is generally a good idea, though some people get a little too carried away with this. Paleos also typically eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and don’t consume dairy, so it should be easy for vegans to go paleo, right? Only if you ignore the fact that paleos typically eat a lot of meat and generally forgo grain and legumes, and that the diet is followed purely for health reasons.

To me, there’s always been something very oxymoronic about this “paleo-vegan” phenomenon. After all, a great way to describe the paleo diet is “wholefoodism for meat-lovers”. People who think paleo and vegan are compatible or combine well are usually clueless hipsters obsessed with all things trendy. I struggle to think of two things more antithetical than veganism and paleoism.

A lot of half-truths, distortions and pseudoscience underpin the paleo philosophy, but I’m mainly concerned here with how paleo-veganism is often promoted as an improved version of veganism by paleo-vegan adherents. In a lot of ways, it’s certainly healthier than the way most Americans eat, but does it offer anything to vegans?

As far as I can tell, it doesn’t offer anything to vegans except unnecessary restrictions which puts them on a slippery slope to disordered eating. Like I said before, a small percentage of the population may benefit from minimizing grain and carbs, and eating more high protein foods, but one need not go paleo to accomplish this. If you eat a whole food vegan diet, embracing paleo is largely redundant, since you’re already excluding dairy, and eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Science doesn’t suggest that paleo-vegans are healthier than regular vegans, or that this is the best diet.

In my opinion, just ignore this fad or anyone who fancies themselves as a reborn caveman. We already knew that eating fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole foods was good for us, and that dairy isn’t necessary, well before paleo came along.

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These are just 5 more things that may screw up your vegan diet, on top of the 10 from the previous post. I could have easily added several more to this list, but it starts getting repetitive. I write these lists because I am troubled by all the bad health advice that encourages disordered eating being spread on the blogosphere and social media. I run into ex-vegans all the time and I usually find they embraced a type of extreme diet based on lots of terrible advice and/or unnecessary restrictions like those on this list. Vegans shouldn’t be made to feel guilty by fellow vegans for not following some “perfect” version of a vegan diet, when there is no good reason to follow this “perfect” diet. I want veganism to be as practical and evidence-based as possible, not difficult and esoteric.

Pseudoscience and misinformation does nothing to help vegans improve their health, or for that matter, in case you’ve forgotten, live an ethical lifestyle that does not exploit animals, which is all that veganism is supposed to be about.

Related articles:

There’s no such thing as a superfood. It’s nonsense.

 More Trouble for Antioxidants

Stop Confusing Veganism with Clean Eating (and Pass Me That Vegan Donut…)

2015: The Year in Joggling

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At the Yonkers Marathon in October. In spite of some difficulties, I managed to complete it.

2015 was a particularly eventful year in the world of joggling. It had its highs and lows, the biggest low by far was when Michal Kapral was not allowed to joggle the NYC Marathon by the fascists who organize the event. He ran the event without juggling and made big news anyway. For a synopsis on all that happened in the joggling world in 2015, read Michal Kapral’s post, The Year in Joggling 2015.

In my neck of the woods in the world of joggling, I’ve also had my highs and lows, with my low point being the disaster that was the Yonkers marathon. Due to knee issues on an especially hilly section of the race, it was my slowest marathon ever, finishing in over 4 hours. By some miracle I didn’t drop the balls, and besides this, during the marathon I joggled my fastest 30k(2:29:36), half-marathon(1:39:15), 10 mile(1:13:23), and 15k(1:08:07) ever. The crowd support was priceless and often pretty funny. The lesson learned from this is to take it easy on the hills. Luckily this knee issue/injury was minor, and I am currently joggling long distances again.

Besides this, earlier last year I completed another Looper Bowl, though as a runner, not a joggler. Even I’m not crazy enough to joggle on a snowy, hilly trail for several miles. This hilly trail run was held in early February during an arctic blast after several snow storms, so there was a lot of snow on the ground. My feet are still angry at me for what I put them through at the beginning of this run when it was only a few degrees above zero, though I had fun overall and didn’t get lost this time. Had even more fun joggling in the city during the summer.

In November, much to my surprise, I was mentioned and quoted in the NY Times in their article about Michal Kapral, “Running While Juggling Is Banned by Marathon Organizers”, even though I had nothing to do with this event. Also quoted were joggling super-stars Zach Warren, circus performer and development worker in Afghanistan who has broken world records in unicycling and joggling, and Richard Alec Ross, a development worker in Central African Republic, who, among his other duties teaches joggling to refugee children.

The more time goes by and I forget about the bad, the more 2015 looks like an extraordinary year of joggling. It may not have been my best year, or the year in which public perception of joggling has changed for the better so that it’s seen as a sport and not as a circus act, but we can dream. More importantly, I also dream of the world going vegan; it’s fantastic being able to combine two things that I love. In the mean time, I will continue to joggle, and intend to make 2016 my comeback year; besides this, I’ve also recently taken up a cross-training activity that I will get to in another post.

 

10 Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan

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If you are totally new to veganism, please read “The Plant Plate” first. This vegan eating guide by RD Ginny Messina will tell you all that is necessary for being a healthy vegan. That guide basically shows how I eat.

 

If there’s one thing the media can be counted on to do with regularity, it is bashing veganism by conflating it with eating disorders. Every time an ex-vegan blogger or celebrity shares their story about why they stopped being vegan, usually with horror stories about how sick they became, the media and many people jump at the chance to portray veganism as an extreme, unhealthy diet that will ruin your health.

It almost always seems the “vegan” in question was mainly motivated by health fanaticism, and had an eating disorder. Besides this, they were usually a devoted follower of one or more quack gurus who advocate a variety of unnecessary restrictions and practices that have nothing to do with veganism. The only things these restrictions do is make it harder to follow a vegan diet than it should be. They do not make it healthier.

Unfortunately, overly restrictive eating has become a little too common these days in the vegan/plant-based community due to the many gurus who advocate some or all of what is on the list below. It’s time to set the record straight about what really constitutes a healthy vegan diet/lifestyle. However, instead of “here’s what you need to do to be a healthy vegan” kind of post with health tips virtually everyone already knows, I thought I would do it from the other direction. So in the interest of making a vegan diet as easy, practical, healthful, and science-based as possible, here are 10 things that aren’t necessary for being a healthy vegan:

1) Eat only organic

Contrary to what you may have heard, organic isn’t necessarily healthier. Yet many vegans are very committed to eating mostly or nothing but organic due to the belief that conventional foods are laden with disease-causing pesticides and toxins.

The scientific evidence however doesn’t consistently show that organic is healthier. Organic foods also have pesticide residue on them, both natural and synthetic. The amount of pesticide residue is generally minuscule, and much of that can be washed off before consumption. The only thing going organic is almost certain to do is make your vegan diet/lifestyle more expensive.

As far as organic being better for the environment, that is controversial and beyond the scope of this post.

2) Go gluten-free

If you don’t have celiac disease or wheat allergy you don’t need to give up wheat or gluten-containing foods. Strangely, some vegans who don’t have celiac disease adhere to this as if gluten was a form of meat. They could be missing out on a lot of nutritious foods by going gluten-free. To make matters worse, gluten-free products are often more expensive than their gluten-containing counterparts. Save your money and ignore this fad.

3) Detox

On second thought, you actually do need to detox. Fortunately, if your liver and kidneys are functioning properly, this is being done for you automatically. As far as “detoxing” through diet goes, this ritual often seems to be the common denominator of those who become “vegan” as a result of being health-obsessed. All-too-often, I stumble upon a vegan health blog that recommends a juice fasting regimen and/or worthless supplements to help the body “detoxify”. This is pseudo-scientific garbage. It’s a great idea for most people to eat or even drink more fruits and vegetables, but they won’t help you remove “toxins”. If you believe you’ve been poisoned, skip the juice bar and seek medical help.

4) Give up soy

This is very similar to going gluten-free in which a perfectly healthy food is demonized for no good reason. Unless you have a soy allergy, there’s no good reason to avoid soy foods. The idea that eating soy foods will give men feminine traits is hooey. If you don’t have thyroid issues, it’s very unlikely that soy in moderation will interfere with your thyroid.

5) Eliminate processed food 100%

I don’t believe that eating healthy should mean completely abstaining from processed foods. Of course, “processed food” isn’t easy to define, but foods that contain a lot of sodium, added sugars, or other additives is a good approximation. Eating a mostly whole food diet is a good idea, but I don’t think that should mean you can’t occasionally eat processed food like meat analogues for convenience. Studies don’t show that eating some processed foods will ruin your health if your diet is healthy otherwise.

6) Spirulina supplements

This type of supplement, which is derived from cyanobacteria(blue-green algae), is largely marketed toward athletes, vegan and non-vegan alike as an “energy booster” or “recovery” aid. It also supposedly has a plethora of other amazing health benefits that the “ambassadors” who push these magic pills on social media will be quick to inform you of. And it’s all nothing but hot air. I often call it “The Pond Scum Scam”.

While it is true that spirulina is nutritionally dense, and that NASA has done some research on it, there’s nothing unique to it that you can’t get from other plant foods for a lot less money. There’s also the potential for contamination and vitamin B12 analogue issues with this type of supplement, not to mention the unpleasant “fishy” taste some users complain about. Even though I’ve never tried them, the pseudo-science used in the promotion of these expensive supplements always left a bad taste in my mouth. Ignore the hype and just eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and eat trail mix or an energy bar after a vigorous workout.

7) Go 100% raw

I’ve already covered rawfoodism in “My Position on Rawfoodism“, but it deserves to be mentioned here because many of the “vegans” with eating disorders who fail at “veganism” were actually rawfoodists. It just really bothers me how much rawfoodism is intertwined with veganism these days.

As a former rawfoodist, I believe rawfoodism has little to do with health and is more about attaining some bizarre, quasi-spiritual level of “purity”. It’s difficult to find a justification for this kind of diet that isn’t based on some form of pseudo-science or the naturalistic fallacy. It’s even more difficult, in my experience, to stick to this diet. People who are drawn to this diet are often extreme perfectionists.

I keep hoping this dangerous fad will go away, but for some reason it continues to linger on as a thorn in the side of the vegan movement.

8) Give up all oil including olive oil

Already covered this here, but this also shows no sign of going away in spite of the potential for this to alienate the many millions of Mediterraneans, Hispanics and millions of others who love their olive oil. Besides this, fat helps you feel full and also helps you absorb fat-soluble nutrients. The tiny number of doctors and researchers who advocate this approach all seem to live in this bubble that is impervious to the latest scientific research which contradicts them. In moderation, fats like olive oil are healthful, and won’t ruin the health of vegans who eat a healthy diet.

9) Buying a Vitamix

The purchase of a Vitamix is often thought of as an important milestone in many a vegan’s journey. I don’t have one, or any blender for that matter, and neither do many other vegans I know, but some vegans can’t live without it.

Unlike other things on this list, there’s nothing wrong with purchasing a Vitamix or blender to make smoothies or prepare meals, it’s just that I don’t see it as being absolutely necessary. It’s great if you have one, but it’s also great if you don’t have one. I can just as easily eat my vegetables in salads, soups, sauces and pasta dishes without one.

10) Eat “clean”

“Clean eating” can loosely be thought of as combining most of what is on the list above. It can sort of be thought of as an umbrella term for eating organic, all-natural, whole food, and additive-free, often with a good helping of raw foods. Note that I didn’t say “animal food free” – “clean-eating” in essence has nothing to do with veganism or eating 100% plant-based for that matter. Granted, some health vegans may think of their diet as the ultimate “clean” diet because to them animal foods are totally “unclean”, but this ignores the fact that most “clean eaters” are not vegan.

“Clean eating” overlaps to a large degree with rawfoodism, and has similar motivations in that it’s based on an obsession with purity.”Clean eating” is also interrelated with detox pseudo-science, since if you should fail to adhere to your strict “clean eating” regimen for even one meal, all you gotta do is “detox” to reverse all the supposed negative health effects the toxic food caused. Since so many different, and mutually contradictory dietary approaches are embracing the “clean eating” trend, it can’t be rigorously or universally defined. Indeed, except to the extent that it implies a health or purity obsession, or an embrace of pseudo-science, “clean eating” is almost meaningless.

Besides all this, “clean eating” smacks of dietary elitism, and the sooner we get rid of this annoying term, the better.

*****

These are just a few of the things vegans don’t have to do to be healthy. I could have listed many more, but I didn’t want to go on forever. I chose to list these not just because of how common they are but also because of how they increase the chances of failing at veganism. To the people who continue to advocate things on this list: Please stop making veganism more complicated than it has to be!

If you think I missed any big ones, feel free to mention them in the comments.

Followup to this post: 5 More Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan

Related posts:

Vegan Diets and Orthorexia: How Should Activists Respond?

The Clean Eating Delusion

Why Your Detox Is Bullsh*t 

Michal Kapral prevented from joggling at NYC Marathon

This is arguably the biggest bummer in joggling history. Michal Kapral, the world’s fastest marathon joggler, has been denied permission to joggle in the NYC marathon due to “security concerns”: World Record Holder Denied Permission to Joggle New York City Marathon.

This is absurd. 3 small millet-stuffed beanbags are now deemed “security threats” under draconian new rules that ban all props. Michal Kapral was planning on breaking his old world record at the NYC marathon and trained very hard for this event. It saddens me both as a joggler and as a native New Yorker that security concerns would come to this.

This isn’t just a setback for Michal Kapral, but a setback for the sport of joggling. Unfortunately, I suspect that there’s more to this than just security concerns. Some people just don’t take joggling seriously, and this may very well include the organizers of the NYC marathon, though they have a long history of supporting our sport.

Let’s hope that the organizers of the NYC marathon rethink their decision before November 1st. It would be terrible if other marathons followed NYC’s example. In the mean time, Kapral is looking for another marathon that is more joggler-friendly to break his old record.

Tossed Out: No Joggling Allowed at New York City Marathon

Yonkers Marathon Race Report

At the Yonkers marathon

At the Yonkers marathon

What can one say about the Yonkers marathon that hasn’t already been said? It has been described over the years as a “beast of a marathon”, or even a “monster” because of its seemingly never-ending hills. This old marathon is still considered one of the nation’s most challenging. And this year the beast got the better of me.

I won’t bore you with endless details, so instead here are the stats:

Finishing time: 4:10:03(my slowest marathon ever) compared to 3:40 last year

Rank: 109 out of 220 finishers

I was 33 out of 53 in the 30 to 39 age group

Screenshot from 2015-10-23 21:32:00

The good news is that I didn’t drop the balls once(2 years in a row no drops!). In fact I’ve been using the same Gballz beanbags since my first marathon. So why was I so slow this year? I think the rerouting of the marathon route made it even hillier, and I may have started out a little too fast. By the time I got to this hill at mile 23 I could barely move and I felt like I injured my right knee, and so I had to walk for a little while after. Still, I PRed some shorter distances and got tremendous crowd support. It was great going through east Yonkers for a change, unlike the other 2 times I did this race when it was a double loop around west Yonkers.

As far as I can tell my training was adequate, though maybe I should have done some more long runs. Although I’m a little disappointed with my performance, this was a valuable learning experience. I believe I’m already a better runner/joggler because of this experience.

Thank you city of Yonkers and a big thanks to everyone who cheered me on as I passed.

If you ran the Yonkers marathon, I would love hearing from you in the comments.